Gayle Troberman, iHeartMedia
Gayle Troberman, iHeartMedia

When MM&M attended day two of the first Publicis Health Media HealthFront last month, we reported that iHeartMedia’s presentation didn’t seem to go over especially well with the audience of pharma clients and media buyers. We noted that while EVP and CMO Gayle Troberman made the case for broadcast radio with passion and wit, it didn’t seem to excite the assembled throng as much as the sessions devoted to digital channels and technologies.

In the wake of that report, we’ve heard from a few folks who disagreed with our assessment. They said they were swayed by the numbers Troberman shared – particularly the data point, culled from the Nielsen Total Audience Report, 1Q 2019, that broadcast radio reaches 92% of the adult population on a weekly basis – and intrigued by her promises of high ROI.

Graciously, Troberman took us up on an offer for a follow-up conversation about all things audio and the channel’s appeal to healthcare marketers. Here, she weighs in on…

…her reaction to MM&M’s report that iHeartRadio’s HealthFront presentation wasn’t enthusiastically received

Honestly, I was kind of surprised. On stage it was 110 degrees. Maybe everybody was a little crankier because of that?

But seriously, the vibe I got was really good. We had our time on the stage and we had breakout sections with lots of different clients over two days. There’s always a moment of surprise; folks who haven’t been buying audio or radio tend to be shocked by the Nielsen numbers about how pervasive radio still is. You particularly get that in New York – in Manhattan or Brooklyn, where people spend less time in their cars.

…the notion that broadcast radio is a medium in decline

Sometimes it feels like we’ve never had more data in the history of marketing, but marketers can still be out of touch with America. The average car on the road still has a cassette deck; it’s not a Tesla. The people making marketing decisions, they live on the coasts. They live in lovely bubbles. I get all this: it’s part of the reason you go into marketing, right? New! Next! Shiny!

I had a conversation at an agency with 20 top creatives, and they said, “You’re right, our friends are not the target for this.” They’re a group of people who live in Williamsburg and live in a precise and unique way. I encourage everyone to consider that there’s been a lack of understanding of real mass-market America.

…whether the occasional need to counteract that narrative can be frustrating

As humans, we all bring our biases to every decision. It’s on us and our audio industry partners like Nielsen because in some ways, the TV and digital industries have done a better job educating people. Radio maybe hasn’t done as good a job. So I look at it as an opportunity for us. We’re investing time and energy in educating the marketing community.

…the continuing client-agency education process

In category after category, there’s a generation of marketers who grew up primarily in the digital world, but I think they’re waking up to the power of audio. They tend to start in digital audio, then they realize the power of broadcast.

You go client by client, agency by agency. First they say, “Wow, this could be a good opportunity.” Then it’s, “Let’s test it.” Test after test, I’ve never seen better ROI and returns in anything I’ve done in marketing during a fairly long career.

…broadcast radio’s value to healthcare marketers

TV has been eroding, particularly with millennial audiences. Digital was supposed to pick up the slack there, but one-to-one hasn’t been the nirvana marketers hoped. What I hear consistently from the pharma space is that clients are having a hard time getting the scale and reach they need. You need scale for mass-market medications and radio can provide that.

…the role that audio can play in a pharma marketing plan

There are so many different needs and objectives in the pharma space. There’s condition-specific and there’s more broad education. People seem to be interested in some combination of the podcasts we do and broadcast. Let’s say you do a podcast about healthy eating or a specific condition, like diabetes or high blood pressure. You have the on-demand version of that, but you can also take an interesting part of the conversation and use it for broadcast audio. That gets you more scale than with just an on-demand podcast.

I think pharma is just starting to break for us. It’s going to become one of our bigger growth categories.

…underused or missed opportunities for healthcare marketers in the audio space

Once they start working with us, clients wake up to the question, “What do we sound like? What’s our voice? How do we sound different on, say, a country station versus a talk or a pop station?” Brands have all these visual identity elements, but nothing for audio. So we help them do an audio identity toolkit.

…radio’s enduring appeal and how marketers can tap into it

One of the reasons broadcast radio still reaches nine out of 10 Americans every week is that it’s a conversational medium. It’s live, unpredictable and honest. You drive to or from work with these people and personalities. You sit at your desk with them.

That’s one of the things we encourage clients to do: not overproduce audio creative, but let the right people in your ecosystem tell their stories in a honest way. For pharma, that could be a patient who benefited from a particular product. It could be a doctor or a nurse. It could be a scientist or an engineer.

…common mistakes she sees clients making

You need to be contextually relevant, by the format or market you’re in or the time of day. I might want to talk to you differently about a sleep aid in the morning than I would in the evening or overnight. We have that ability to version and tell different messages during different parts of the day. It’s seemingly obvious, but sometimes clients do one or two spots and don’t even think about doing more.

…the future of healthcare marketing in audio formats

Lots of brands are interested in the relationship between health and healing and music, so that will be a part of it. Certainly there’s the ability to intersect iHeart events with [health] industry events. I hope we’ll be talking about massive growth with healthcare clients in broadcast radio.

The Third M is MM&M’s weekly health media column. Got ideas or questions? Contact Larry Dobrow at [email protected]